Adventures in Glacier National Park


The travelers at Upper Two Medicine Lake

(From left) Delaney White, the author Susie Bruning and her daughter Aubrey Bruning at Upper Two Medicine Lake

Susie Bruning on suspension bridge

The author, Susie Bruning, hikes across a suspension bridge near Upper Two Medicine Lake.

Scenic hike to Iceberg Lake

Delaney White (left) and Aubrey Bruning take a scenic hike to Iceberg Lake.

Delaney White and Aubrey Bruning at Iceberg Lake

Delaney White (left) and Aubrey Bruning sit on an iceberg after taking a second polar plunge for pictures at Iceberg Lake.

Glacier National Park has long been considered “American’s Switzerland,” and is a bucket list must for those seeking the outdoors due to its bucolic location in northern Montana and proximity to the Canadian border.

With a history of a mountain chalet system that included horse-drawn carriages, its slogan of “big sky country” and impressive soaring mountains, Glacier is a destination not to be missed.

In the midst of COVID-19 and the push to get outdoors, our national parks became too popular for their own good. As a result, soaring crowds, road congestion and enforcement of daily car reservation systems have now become the standard. Gone are the days of the gas-guzzling station wagons and loose vacation plans that included cold ham sandwiches, seedy motels or KOA campgrounds with blue-green-algae swimming pools.

To visit most national parks, you need months-in-advance organization, which includes daily park reservations, hotel accommodations and campground passes. Without procuring these items, your trip could be a disaster.

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I started my planning nine months in advance by booking a VRBO condo in Whitefish, Montana and plane tickets into the tiny airport of Kalispell, and kept my fingers crossed for no last-minute entanglements.

With alarms going off at 5 a.m. our first day (causing groans and an emergent coffee situation), we arrived at the Two Medicine east entrance at 8 a.m. sharp with a secured boat pass in hand. We took a beautiful ride in the historic, wooden boat Sinopah to the trailhead of Upper Two Medicine Lake.

It was a moderate five-mile hike, with soaring mountains and open fields of wildflowers. After a quick stop at Twin Falls waterfall, we continued our hike to the upper lake, which is ensconced between soaring mountains and dotted with patches of snow. Lounging lakeside with a lunch of peanut butter sandwiches and Gummie Savers, we missed the 11:15 a.m. return boat ride due to my poor planning skills, and with some heated debate, decided to do the 3.5-mile hike around the lake to the parking lot. If you have the gumption, it’s a pretty hike with an incredible pole suspension bridge that’s photo worthy and worth the extra miles.

Once back in Whitefish, we ate at Mackenzie River Pizza and Co., rewarding our hard work with plates of pasta and a nice glass of Driftboat Amber Ale.

Trail weary from the previous day’s jaunt, we enjoyed a leisurely morning of coffee and breakfast at Amazing Crepes in the downtown area while securing a next day’s park pass in the daily 8 a.m. lotto. (This included no less than three of us on three different electronic devices, screaming back and forth to alert our progress. Nothing like a bit of cyber hyperactivity to start a day).

After a bit of shopping, we jumped in our car to cross the Canadian border. Why? No reason, other than we could. We did the one-hour drive to Eureka, Montana, crossed the border at Roosville and drove to Fernie, British Columbia. What we found was a delightful ski resort town, surrounded by mountains, with a cute downtown peppered with shopping and dining. We had lunch at “The Loaf,” with an all-day breakfast menu and drank celebratory mimosas. As a final salute, we played the national anthem “Oh Canada” while leaving town and giggled as we drove the speed limit of 100 km/hr.

The next day required another drive to East Glacier, which should be a consideration for future trips since the drive from Whitefish to the Many Glacier trailhead took us two hours. But we were determined to hike the Iceberg Lake Trail, which maintains a cozy 46-degree water temperature and keeps icebergs floating all summer. The trail was of moderate intensity (10 miles roundtrip) but gorgeous in its views, with panoramic mountain scapes as far as the eye could see.

Turning the final corner, the turquoise blue water was a shock to the eyes. The lake rests at 6,000 feet and is surrounded by sheer rock walls. Bolstered by Tiktok views, the teenagers had us packing swimming suits and preparing for a polar plunge with the icebergs. Is it cold? Absolutely. Did the teenagers jump in a second time to crawl up on an iceberg for pictures? Without a doubt. Warming ourselves in the sun, we ate sandwiches and encouraged others to jump in.

On the return hike, we were alerted to the presence of a grizzly bear about 100 feet off the trail, happily ensconced in bushes and eating berries. Although we had no physical interaction, the bears are a constant concern, and every hiker should be armed with bear spray.

On our last full day, we jumped in the car and drove the “Going to the Sun Road.” It’s one of the most iconic sights in Glacier National Park and includes breathtaking turns and spectacular, unobstructed vistas. There is something very spiritual about a drive that hugs the mountains and gives 180-degree views. Located at the peak (at an elevation of 6,600 feet) is Logan’s Pass. Built mid-point between West and East Glacier entrances, it’s the trailhead for one of the more popular hikes, Highline Trail, with a full park store and ranger station. Fair warning: parking here can be an aggressive competition with whole blogs devoted to surviving it. We were able to find parking without a fistfight and hiked a small portion of the Hidden Lake trail.

Sweatshirts purchased, we headed for ice cream and a Mexican dinner at Mama Blanca’s.

Before our flight home, we drove to the Whitefish ski resort and did the Alpine slide, which offers encompassing views of the surrounding area and Canada as you make sharp mountain turns in a plastic toboggan. I was reminded of our earlier Canadian jaunt and the U.S. customs official asking “Why were Nebraskans visiting Montana?” I responded, “To hike Glacier National Park, of course.” Handing back our passports with a wink, she told us to inform everyone at home that “Montana is ugly, people are mean and the food is atrocious.”

If I were from Montana, I’d protect the gorgeous gem that is Glacier National Park as well. But seriously? Who am I going to tell?

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